Fishing for largemouth bass is a lifelong passion of mine, and I’m always looking for that one special fish. Targeting lunkers is a life-long mission, and the opening weeks of the Long Island season are prime time for the big girls. During opening week last season, I caught my biggest largemouth up to that time – it measured 23 inches. That fish put on a memorable fight, and one that I will always remember. I didn’t think I could ever top that catch here on Long Island where largemouths just don’t grow as big as they do down south in places like Florida and Texas.
Well, one never knows what the fishing gods have in store for you, and when the season opened this year on the first Saturday in June, I connected with a bass that toppedmy previous year’s catch and established a new personal best for me. It was a catch that never should have happened—a catch where the odds of landing this big bass were all against me. I had decided to put in a few hours before work on a local lake not far from my home. I awoke to a damp and foggy morning but I had to go out after enduring a month of closed season when you were not allowed to target bass on most Long Island lakes and ponds. I was itching to get out there! This is the time to hunt for that big lunker.
I launched my Malibu X Factor kayak and was armed with my KastKing Speed Demon Pro Rod and Kodiak 2000. The day started out off on a good note. I had landed many mid-size bass and one pretty decent fish before launching a rogue cast under a tree. The result was my 8-pound test leader was noticeably frayed after being pulled through the tree’s thorny branches. I knew I should have changed the leader and I can’t even tell you why I didn’t. I was throwing a Keitech soft plastic on a Gamakatsu weedless 4/0 hook. I spied a patch of vegetation that had big bass written all over it. As soon as I cast, with my bait half on and half off a lily pad, I had this monster bass blow up and I set the hook. Right off the bat I knew I was in trouble with the weakened 8-pound and trying to get this fish out of the vegetation. Well, the first jump gave me a good idea of how massive this fish was. I kept her head on top of the vegetation and managed to get her out of the patch. Then she took off straight at me so I had to reel like a madman trying to catch up with her and not give any slack. Next she goes under my kayak, rubs up against my rudder system and goes crazy in the other direction. At this point, I’m panicking she’s going to jump and that’s that.After a struggle that felt like aneternity, I get her back to the kayak and around to the right side. As I get the net out, she jumps again, her mouth wide open. This fish truly lived up the name “bucketmouth.” I could have fit two fists in there. I went to net her and but she still had some fight in her and wound up getting stuck on the outside of the net! Then I really started panicking. I opened the bail on my Kodiak and laid it across my lap, then reached into the water, wrapped my arm around her mid-section and gently got her into the kayak. It wasn’t the most graceful bass landing but it worked. Then there was the anticipation of finding out how big this beast really was. I got her unhooked from the net, and with my hands shaking and heart racing, I laid her gently on my Hawg Trough measure device. As I straightened her tail out, I watch it pass the 23-inch mark, then 24, then 25! I had done it. Against all odds I had landed a 26.25-inch largemouth, one of the biggest to come out of a Long Island lake. As quickly as I could, I snapped a few pictures and with hands still shaking, sent her on her way but not before she sprayed me with a swipe of her fanlike tail and showering me with whatever nasty smelling green slime was in that vegetation patch. Somehow I didn’t mind. That’s a bass I will remember for the rest of my life, and a fight during which I kept thinking that at any second my line would snap. Sometimes the fish gods do smile on us.